Urgent need to address plight of low paid and vulnerable workers
April 29, 2007
Launching Sinn Féin’s Workers Rights’ Policy in Dublin today, Sinn Féin Dublin MEP Mary Lou McDonald said that there is an urgent need to address the plight of the ‘new underclass of exploited workers that has emerged in Ireland’. These include ‘low-paid service sector workers, migrant workers and vulnerable workers threatened with outsourcing and redundancy by employers determined to drive wages and conditions back down’.
Ms. McDonald said, “I am very pleased in the run-up to International Workers Day, to launch Sinn Fein’s Workers’ Rights policy. The rights of workers are priority for Sinn Féin. The struggle of labour has long been an integral strand within Irish republicanism. As a party we agree with James Connolly that the cause of labour is the cause of Ireland and that the cause of Ireland is the cause of labour.
“This year marks the centenary of the 1907 Belfast Dockers’ strike. Work is to commence shortly on the installation in Belfast City Hall of a commemorative, stained glass window depicting James Larkin, something that Sinn Féin has with others worked to bring about. We are also working with the trade unions in organising a number of specific events to commemorate the centenary of the Dockers’ Strike.
“The delivery of a strong, progressive workers rights’ framework is a fundamental part of Sinn Féin’s vision for Ireland and we want to work with others, particularly the Irish trade union movement to achieve this.
“This policy document sets out Sinn Féin’s determination to build a society where workers are enabled to use their power for the collective good, where workers’ contribution to society is acknowledged through fair working conditions and return on their labour, and where all workers can enjoy work/life balance.
“We reiterate our determination to stamp out exploitation of workers in Ireland and internationally and we commit to defending and extending social protections for all workers and pensioners and to replacing the current model of weak labour regulation and non-enforcement with comprehensive regulation and stringent enforcement.
“There is an urgent need to address the plight of the new underclass of exploited workers which has emerged in Ireland. These include low-paid service sector workers, migrant workers and vulnerable workers threatened with outsourcing and redundancy by employers determined to drive wages and conditions back down.
“We are advocating number of recommendations to tackle this issue including a workers’ rights awareness information campaign; proposals to strengthen the labour inspectorate and ensure it includes people proficient in the major migrant languages and increased penalties for violations.
“We are also proposing the introduction of a penalty point system to deal with ‘rogue’ employers and companies that consistently transgress employment law, which would result in the removal of such a company from the company register by the Companies Registration Office.
“Our policy proposes concrete measures to mitigate concerns around the issue of displacement, as well as the need to respect the rights of migrant workers.
“Sinn Féin consulted within the trade union movement in the drawing up our workers’ rights policy and we will continue, in the time ahead, to engage with trade unions on a range of issues of concern to their members. We will support trade unions and workers fighting for better conditions, battling against the privatisation of public sector companies or campaigning to improve public services.” ENDS